5:32 | Herman Buffington was hunkered down in his foxhole on Okinawa when a mortar round hit close by and a piece of red hot shrapnel tore through his leg. It sounded like bacon frying, but a medic got the bleeding stopped and he was going to be OK. He refused the morphine because he was already exhausted and didn't want anyone else to tend to his tourniquet.
Keywords : Herman Buffington Okinawa foxhole mortar shrapnel medic blood sulfa infection morphine tourniquet
The training for Herman Buffington was centered around invasion assaults and he made many landings on the West Coast to prepare for the trials ahead. He shipped out for the Pacific just in time to take part in mop-up operations on Saipan.
Herman Buffington continued his training on Saipan, learning to coordinate with larger forces on amphibious invasions. There weren't many Japanese left, but some of the stragglers would sneak down out of the hills to watch, from a distance, the movies the Americans screened at night in the open air.
Herman Buffington explains how it's more difficult than it sounds to get from the rope ladder on a troop transport into the Higgins Boat waiting at the bottom. When they stormed ashore at Okinawa, there was no opposition at first, but that would soon change, especially the snipers. The Americans learned to judge how close the shot was by the sound of the bullets that missed them. If they got closer, you had to make some decisions.
Herman Buffington was First Scout, which meant he was alone and under fire often. He was always hoping the others would catch up and spread the fire around a little. The Japanese snipers were good shots, and way too many had survived the merciless shelling from the Navy's big guns. He was also the company Runner, a storied position in the Army.
They were about eight in number and they came in with a white flag. Suddenly they all dropped to the ground, and the Americans were in for a surprise. Known for not surrendering, many of them changed their minds when all hope was over and they massed on the beach and waited for the Americans.
They were trying to take a ridge on Okinawa where the Japanese had dug trenches and the persistent Americans tried repeatedly to take the position. Herman Buffington got close enough to vault over into a trench where he used the old helmet-on-a-bayonet trick to judge the enemy fire. He received the Bronze Star for his actions in this firefight.
Herman Buffington pays tribute to one of his Sergeants on Okinawa, William B. "Willie B" Holeman, who was known for not sending his men anywhere he wouldn't go. Willie B was trapped on a small hill and surrounded by the enemy when Buffington took a group of volunteers to get him and his men out of there.
Herman Buffington was taking some potshots at Japanese troops on the other side of a large ravine where they were foolishly cooking their rice out in the open. When an officer came by and asked how he was doing, he remarked that he was trying to mix a little lead with the rice. The man asked for the rifle so he could give it a try and he proved to be an excellent shot. Buffington could smell the brass and he was right. It was General Simon Buckner.
It was late night guard duty and Herman Buffington heard something. Then he saw a figure crouched in the brush. When the next flare went up, he sighted and fired. The figure didn't move so he shot him again. When he found out why there was no reaction, all he could do was laugh. He did get a souvenir out of the encounter, a silk Japanese flag.
With many others, Herman Buffington was preparing for the dreaded Japan invasion when the atomic bomb ended the war. That was great news for him, just back with his unit. He had been in the hospital recovering from a shrapnel wound when a red haired lady from the Red Cross caught his eye. This was going to be trouble, he thought.
Herman Buffington recalls two peculiar incidents from his time in the Philippines after the war. One involved several hundred new Jeeps headed for the bottom of the ocean. The other involved a thankless assignment as a lifeguard.
The man had been shot up pretty bad, remembers Herman Buffington, who carried him back to the camp. All the way the wounded soldier had pleaded with him to leave him there, but once safe in a foxhole, he wouldn't let go of Buffington's hand, even when the medics prepared to evacuate him.
Herman Buffington displays his Bronze Star and Purple Heart, along with the rest of his decorations from Saipan and Okinawa. He pays tribute to today's soldiers and explains how he never understood the importance of what he was doing in combat.
Hank Sturgess was trained as a torpedo officer, but when he joined the crew of the destroyer USS Radford, the skipper said what he needed was a radar officer. The new technology was secret and destined to be highly important for the rest of the war. It was on the job training for the young ensign, who helped convince a skeptical admiral that it would work. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
Paratrooper Mario Patruno made good use of his time in England before the big invasion. After attempting to recover some Italian real estate, he hitched around the country, making friends wherever he went.
There were 40,000 paratroopers deployed in Operation Market Garden, an assault into the Netherlands and Germany. Paratrooper Mario Patruno approached his target bridge, only to see the Germans blow it up. Before taking Eindhoven, he captured a frightened young enemy soldier and, immediately, several more showed up.
In the Dutch town of Eindhoven, Paratrooper Mario Patruno made a foolhardy charge on an enemy barricade. As he disarmed the German officer there, he had a surprise related to his own weapon. When the battle was over, joyous civilians thronged the streets and brought out food and drink. Then it was on toward Germany, riding on British tanks.
With a chemistry degree in hand, Nathan Radin headed home from Berkeley to New York City. He forgot to notify the draft board, but they found him eventually, working for the War Department in a parachute flare factory. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
There was a sniper who was getting mighty close. In the Dutch town of Nijmegen, Paratrooper Mario Patruno waited for the shooter to reload, then ran to a wrecked vehicle to fire back. Unfortunately, there was another German with a bead on him. He didn't hear the bullet that got him. It was like a punch in the face.
Most guys were already assigned and shipped out of camp but Nathan Radin found himself in charge of marching new recruits around. Finally, he got an assignment that matched up with his college degree, a medical dispensary in Charleston. Then it was on to a laboratory in Ohio where he trained pilots in a decompression chamber. His eventual wartime assignment was still waiting for him. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
He was a non-combatant, but Nathan Radin saw the consequences of war up close, a toll on both human bodies and the environment. He looks back and wonders how it happened and how it could be happening still. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
After nearly being sliced up by a shattered plate glass window, Paratrooper Mario Patruno scrambled behind a pile of rubble to return fire to a German across the street. He sensed that there was someone next to him firing, and when he saw who the local hero was, he could barely believe it.
The men of the USS Radford were desperately trying to rescue as many of the men in the water as they could. The men were from her sister ship, the USS Helana, and three times the rescuers had to break away to fend off Japanese attacks. After a near miss from an enemy torpedo, Hank Sturgess and the rest of the Radford's crew managed to pull 500 survivors from the water. Part 2 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
As the Navy prepared to move beyond the Solomon Islands, a large fleet assembled at Fiji. Hank Sturgess had Shore Patrol duty the first night of leave on the island. It started out well, bit soon the sick sailors began showing up. Back at sea, an important task on his ship was the rescue of downed airmen. This led to a peculiar arrangement with the aircraft carrier crews. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
The men at the Army petroleum testing lab hated the food in their own mess hall. Nathan Radin explains that, since they had to board the tankers at anchor to get samples of their cargo, it made since to visit at lunchtime. Back at the lab, there was a mysterious project going on for some unknown VIP. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
During one battle, the destroyer USS Radford was guarding some small carriers when a Japanese submarine got in close and sank one. Soon, Hank Sturgess picked up a blip on SONAR and the fast ship closed in to seek revenge. On another occasion, a well known pilot was missing and the men of the Radford joined the search. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
It took a while for the Army to decide how to best use Nathan Radin's chemistry degree. He was assigned to a petroleum products unit which was formed to test tanker loads of fuel for quality and possible reuse. He just missed his deployment when he was delayed by a storm and the man who replaced him probably was headed to a much better place than he was. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
He was first in his class at Midshipmen's school and he got his first choice of assignments, a destroyer. Hank Sturgess joined the USS Radford at Tulagi while the battle for Guadalcanal was raging nearby. He got an immediate baptism of fire on a routine patrol. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
After the hard fought battle of Tarawa, Walter Marshall trained in Hawaii for the next operation, the invasion of Saipan. Once again, it was chaotic, with units split up and men moving up into leadership when called upon. This was a big advantage over the Japanese with their rigid command structure.
When Nathan Radin got to New Guinea with the Army petroleum products laboratory unit, no one there had any idea who they were or what they were doing there. While that was sorted out, he got to personally know thousands of fuel drums in the depot. When the operation moved around the coast, he was issued the dreaded D ration for the duration of the trip. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)
The destroyer USS Radford was being refueled and restocked when word came of a large Japanese task force moving in. During the battle that ensued, the ship made a frontal assault on the enemy, firing a bank of torpedoes and speeding off. As they maneuvered away, RADAR officer Hank Sturgess got a contact on his screen that could not be identified. Part 1 of 3. (This interview made possible with the support of ALBERT SMALL.)
Nathan Radin felt badly for the natives in New Guinea, who were malnourished and poorly treated by their supposed allies. He succumbed to the environment himself when he contracted Dengue Fever. As he was traveling homeward, the atomic bomb ended the war. With his academic background, he understood immediately when he heard about it. (This interview made possible with the support of KETURAH THUNDER-HAAB.)